Saints head coach Sean Payton has officially declared his intention to treat Week 17 as a must-win. This from the Times-Picayune:
"I think it's a good time for us to go on the road and put a good week of work in and play a good Carolina team. So our plan is to play this game just like it would be the last game to get in or out of the playoffs, and that can't be any more clear."
Of course that statement was made on Monday, long before the Bears toppled the Vikings (led by a receiver Chicago apparently didn't need in the first 13 weeks). After the Vikes' loss, New Orleans has now clinched everything that's worth clinching in the NFC.
We're still expecting Payton to follow through on his commitment, though. The Saints have lost consecutive games and their offense suddenly can't manage to top 17 points. If you're going to slide New Orleans skill position players down the ranks for the week ahead, do it because A) they're struggling and B) over the past three weeks, Carolina has limited New England, Minnesota and New York to just 36 total points.
• As for Carolina's plans, head coach John Fox reportedly "has reason to believe there's a chance leading rusher DeAngelo Williams(notes) might be able to play in next Sunday's season finale." That's hardly a guarantee, obviously. (Reason to believe there's a chance Williams might, etc). But it's a concern for any fantasy owner who's been carried by Jonathan Stewart(notes) over the past two weeks. [Charlotte Observer]
• The Bengals are likely to rest starters to some extent in Week 17, but head coach Marvin Lewis hasn't yet been specific. Cincinnati will face the Jets on Sunday night, and it's a play-in game for New York. There's a decent chance those teams will see each other again in the first round of the playoffs, so Lewis finds himself in a terrific tactical position. [Cincinnati Enquirer]
• The Cardinals still have a chance to earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, but they'll need both the Vikings and Eagles to lose in Week 17. (We're no longer in the business of predicting Minnesota wins around here, just for the record). By the time Arizona takes the field on Sunday, the team might be eliminated from the race for a bye. If that's the case, don't expect much from your Cardinals or your Packers. [Green Bay Press Gazette]
[Foster's] effort Sunday was about production, a season-high 97 yards on 19 carries, and he said last week's fumble against the Rams was far from his mind.
"I know I can play this game, and I feel the coaches know I can play this game," he said. "They put me on the field and I do what I need to do."
Coach Gary Kubiak was impressed. "Good players respond," Kubiak said.
Foster should have a significant role in Houston's must-win home matchup against New England. Unless he fumbles, in which case he'll have no role. [Houston Chronicle]
• The Patriots have clinched the AFC East title, they have no shot at a playoff bye, and they won't be in a position to hand-pick their first round opponent. They could certainly choose to rest starters at some early point in Week 17. Predictably, Bill Belichick is not disclosing any information to the fantasy community: "I do what’s best for our football team. That’s my philosophy."
Got it. Thanks, coach. A case could be made that the best thing for his team is to angle for a second round playoff matchup with the Colts, not the Chargers. Or a case could be made that the best thing is to ride the momentum from last week's win. Or a case can be made that Tom Brady's(notes) health cannot be risked in game that New England doesn't need.
We can only wait on Belichick's decision, which will not be announced. As Brady told WEEI on Monday, "I'm sure Coach will have his own ideas. Down in Foxboro, it's not like it's a democracy. We don't sit around and take votes." [Boston Herald]
• For the final time this season, we present you with the Rams Report Card. St. Louis' secondary somehow avoided an "F." Bill Coats is a forgiving grader, but we understand he's a strict disciplinarian. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
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